Monday, May 29, 2006

There Is Nothing Like A Dome

Seeking your station in life

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is the famous dome of Flinders Street station, the hub of Melbourne's train system. I shot this picture on a freezing morning, with the dome and a set of traffic lights silhouetted against an icy-blue sky.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was shot inside the station, under the huge cupola. This graceful arch, across the main entrance, spans the famous clocks showing the times of the trains on the various lines that serve this amazing city.

Photo copyright; DAVID McMAHON

And this picture was shot from just outside the station. These clocks are literally a part of the city's heritage, because in the days before mobile phones, people simply used to arrange to meet ``under the clocks''. I guess you could say that was a case of time standing still.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

And this shot was taken inside the station, showing the recently refurbished roof and the graceful lines, reminiscent of the colonial era, of the station's interior. I have showed this picture to a lot of my friends who commute regularly through Flinders Street station and most of them said they had never looked up to take notice of the amazing roof.

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

And finally, this shot was taken on the south bank of the Yarra, just to give you an idea of the station's size, stretching an entire city block. Its distinctive glow in the dark is a comfortingly familiar sight to Melburnians, as is the reflection in the chilly waters of the Yarra, the other great landmark of the city.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

No Malice In Wonderland

Finding the appropriate formula
Narain Karthikeyan in Melbourne. Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON
The Indian flag: not part of his racing helmet. Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It's been a strange 18 months for Narain Karthikeyan, the first Indian driver on the Formula circuit. He made his F1 debut for the Jordan team at the Melbourne Grand Prix in March last year, but is now a test driver after the shuffle in ownership and team branding.

He even ran into controversy over his design for a racing helmet, featuring the Indian tricolour and the chakra on the top of the helmet. No, he was told by the Indian authorities, he could not display the national flag in such a manner, even if his motives were purely patriotic.

Just before his historic Melbourne debut, I asked him where his obsession with cars really began. Like most Indian lads, did he lean how to drive on an Ambassador, the Indian-made clone of the English mid-1950s Morris Oxford?
He chuckles. ``Yes,’’ he says. But he’s keeping his cards close to his chest. He doesn’t give much away. It’s as if he’s enjoying the cat-and-mouse character of this interrogation.
Was it his father’s car? Affirmative, he says. And, like most Indian petrolheads, did he learn how to use the unforgiving clutch and awkward gear lever long before he reached the legal driving age? Correct, he concedes. He doesn’t give much away, this bloke.
Somewhere in the world, there’s a poker school waiting for Narain Karthikeyan.
Then he cracks. The pressure’s too much for him. ``I might have been about nine or ten years old at the time,’’ he volunteers, his eyes shining.
His father’s car? Yes. Did he get caught? Yes. Often? Yes. Did any of the consequences dissuade him from his love of driving? Er, no.
There’s a couple of other people in the room now, so we’re carrying on this conversation across them. Did he have a teacher who despaired at his obsession with cars? Of course, he admits, laughing.
The teacher told him that driving cars, in essence, would get him nowhere. The teacher wanted him to study, go to university, get a real job.
And does he ever bump into the teacher? Now he’s so animated, the words are rushing out.
After he was given the break of a lifetime, when Jordan signed him to their Formula One team, he caught up with his former teacher. Both former pupil and former teacher obviously enjoyed the irony of how wrong the advice was and how endless prospects now loomed on Karthikeyan’ horizon.
I have one final question for him. Did he bear any ill feelings against his old teacher? No, is the quick answer. Not at all.
There’s no malice in wonderland.

If you'd like to read my interview-based feature with Narain Karthikeyan, just click on this link titled RACE AGAINST TIME? featured on the Anglo-Indian Portal.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bar, Bar, I'm The Black Sheep

(We'll drink to that - NOW!)

For a bloke who doesn't drink, I seem to spend a lot of my time in pubs. But did I ever tell you about the time I was in the Yukon, in Canada?

There I was, in the Gateway Lounge, one of two pubs in the stunning town of Haines Junction, on the Alaska Highway. And I had to get out my sketch pad while everyone else got acquainted with Canadian grog. Sketch pad? Yup. Because I'm a Darjeeling boy, accustomed to the sight of majestic mountains. And there, through the windows of the pub, were snowy mountains as far as the eye could see.

I have to admit, the hardest part of the sketch was doing the Budweiser sign backwards. I had barely finished the sketch when a big (and I mean B I G) bloke called Rich ambled over to become my best friend. After we'd had a bit of a yarn, he offered to introduce me to squaw wrestling.

I have this mental picture of being forced to fight him for a woman and I look for a dark corner of the Lounge. But Rich pulls one of his mates into the spotlight. ``Here, we'll show you what squaw wrestling is all about.'' He and his mate lie flat on their backs, their heads pointing in opposite directions.

On the count of three, they both raise their right legs as each contestant tries to pin the other down. No contest. Rich has his mate pinned in a couple of seconds. His mate is a woman called Deb.

We get the distinct impression she is very disappointed with her form.

It is my turn. The hopes and fears of our great nation rest on my shoulders. We line up and I formulate the perfect plan. I'll go for his hamstring. One, two, three. I swing up and even before I can swivel, Rich has me pinned. Time elapsed: about half a second. Deb looks a bit happier now.

I'm sorry I don't have any sketches of the squaw wrestling, but the best excuse I can think of is that I lost my pencils. But that would have been the perfect cue for a Shakespearean twist. You know: ``2B or not 2B - that is the question''.

If you'd like to read my teetotaller's guide to Alaskan pubs, just click on this link Anglo-Indian Portal

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Lock, Stock and Barrel

(A couple of trigger-happy competitors)

Olympians Russell Mark and Lt Col Raj Rathore. Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Lt. Col Raj Rathore at Lilydale. Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

These two distinguished Olympians would have to be the Odd Couple of international shooting. Like the incomparable Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, each is the complete antithesis of the other. Russell Mark is a knockabout Aussie, while India's Lt Col Rajyavardhan Rathore (``Chilly'' to his mates, because he's so cool under pressure) is a straitlaced, serious sort of bloke.

Between them, they boast three Olympic medals. The Aussie won a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, then a silver at the Sydney Olympics. The Indian army officer, on the other hand, won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games, the first Indian to win an individual silver medal.

But does Rathore, with his parade-ground grooming, know about the Aussie Salute? No, he confesses. Got him.

Then I give him the simple explanation that the Aussie Salute is simply the act of using one hand to brush the flies away from your face on a hot day.

So, who's the big shot now?

If you'd like to read my full-length feature article on Russell Mark and Raj Rathore, with pictures taken at the Lilydale Gun Club in Melbourne, just click on this link Anglo-Indian Portal

Monday, May 01, 2006

Like A Bridge Over Dappled Water

(Apologies to Messrs Simon and Garfunkel)

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This was taken at The Spit, on our way back from Sea World on the Gold Coast. I had actually stopped to take some other pictures, when I walked back to the car and noticed the scene in front of me.

The clouds had rolled in, the light had started to fade dramatically. The water was rippling gently and the reflection of the lights on the bridge were casting shadows of liquid gold below, as the pelicans swam past in a serene squadron. Just a nice meld of colours and a picture that simply had to be taken.

And my learned friend and colleague Andrew Rennie, a former Queensland resident, had this nugget of information to add:

``Your picture of the Southport Bridge reminded me of a story I heard when I was visiting the area. One February in the late 1960s, during a particularly torrid storm season and a king-tide period, the Southport Bridge actually went under.

``It was particularly traumatic for the canal-front residents, many of whom had not long finished building their homes. Many houses also went under and insurance companies would not cover the loss.

``If you've ever been around the canals, you will see now that most of the homes are at least two-storey. Regulations dictate that they must be. The only single-level dwellings are those that survived the weather.

``The way property prices are rising on the Coast, it won't be long before these little bastions of a bygone era go the way of the Southport Bridge and get swallowed up too.

``The pelican pictures also brought to mind a story that had Gold Coasters at odds for some weeks back in 2004. A popular Labrador seafood store's ritual of feeding flocks of pelicans was popular with both tourists and locals, but some residents complained the birds' pooing was contaminating the Broadwater and wanted the practise banned.

``The saga dominated the `Gold Coast Bulletin' for days, until finally the Environment Minister Dean Wells, bowing to public pressure, declared the case closed. Normality returned, and the pelicans continue to have a daily feed, much to the delight of the thousands of tourists who flock there each week.''